Lovemore Chikova-Development Dialogue
There are high expectations that the eighth edition of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to be held in Senegal on Monday and Tuesday next week will further strengthen the pillars of cooperation between the continent and the Asian economic giant.
The theme of the conference: “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era” is very interesting.
It invokes participants to think deeper on how the partnership between Africa and China can be enhanced, especially in this new era characterised by Covid-19.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has disrupted development plans, programmes and projects initiated at the seventh edition of FOCAC held in Beijing in 2018.
It is thus important that the Dakar conference reboots the energy through seeking effective ways on how cooperation can be heightened in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which appears to be a major threat for a sometime to come.
China has done a lot even in the advent of Covid-19 in cooperating with African countries to realise their dreams of ending poverty and initiating industrialisation and modernisation.
Despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19, it is important to note that the pillars that anchor the relations between China and African countries remain unshaken.
These pillars are mainly rooted in the spirit of win-win cooperation, mutually beneficial programmes and strategic cooperation.
It is important to examine these pillars of cooperation.
China has a deliberate industrial promotion initiative with African countries, whose aim is to ensure that countries on the continent catch up with those from other regions in terms of accelerated industrial development.
Already, Chinese companies are being encouraged to invest on the continent, especially through setting up industrial parks, technological zones and special economic zones.
A number of Chinese firms are already involved in this industrial development in many African countries, including in Zimbabwe.
These companies are bringing in high level machinery and new technologies that assist in the production of goods and the implementation of developmental projects.
At the 2018 FOCAC conference, China pledged to help African countries achieve general food security by 2030 through the modernisation of agriculture.
Funding for the industrialisation of African countries is being provided through the China-Africa Development Fund, the China-Africa Fund for Industrial Cooperation and the Special Loan for the Development of African Small to Medium Enterprises.
Another pillar that espouses the relations between China and African countries is infrastructure development.
African countries have for long been struggling with modernising their infrastructure, but a joint China-Africa Infrastructure Cooperation Plan has been put in place to ensure there is acceleration of infrastructure development on the continent.
Cooperation has been enhanced in areas such as energy, transport, information, telecommunications and water resources through various models of assistance.
In Zimbabwe, a number of Chinese firms have entered into partnerships with local organisations to work on huge infrastructure projects like the on-going construction of Lake Gwayi-Shangani and Kunzvi Dam.
In the energy sector, Sinohydro carried out the expansion of the Kariba South Hydro Power Station and is also working on Hwange Thermal Power Station’s Unit 7 and 8, while Power China was selected to implement the Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project.
Several other projects have been undertaken by Chinese companies in Zimbabwe including the upgrading of Victoria Falls International Airport and the on-going works at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, both being undertaken by China Jiangsu International.
Resources for financing infrastructure development in Africa are being availed through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank and the Silk Road Fund.
Trade between China and Africa almost doubled between 2020 and 2021, increasing by nearly 20-fold over the last 20 years.
In the first seven months of this year, the trade between China and Africa increased by 40,5 percent year-on-year and was valued at a record high of US$139,1 billion.
The Chinese market is increasingly recognising African products, with high volumes traded in items like rubber, cotton and coffee.
There has been strengthening of exchanges and cooperation on market regulation and between customs authorities from China and African countries.
China also pledge to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area and set up relevant mechanisms to promote e-commerce cooperation with Africa.
China has been openly sharing its development practices with African countries and supporting cooperation on economic and social development planning.
At the 2018 FOCAC conference, the Asian economic giant pledged to support opening of a China-Africa Innovation Cooperation Centre to promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship.
A number of training programmes have been carried out to capacitate officials from African countries to carry out development programmes, learning from the Chinese experience, its successes and failures.
Without involving the people, cooperation between China and African countries cannot be easily improved to the desired levels. Interconnectivity among African people and their Chinese counterparts is important in helping erase misconceptions that may arise as the two sides cooperate in various fields.
For a more prosperous future, China and Africa are enhancing the existing people-to-people relations to increase more understanding among citizens.
To enhance people-to-people interactions, China has been encouraging cultural exchanges with African countries, and the Asian country has been sending doctors, peacekeepers, agricultural experts and businesspeople to Africa.
Platforms to bring people from both sides together like the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum have been established to create dialogue and exchanges between Chinese and African thinkers on charting the development trajectory.
China has decided to establish an institute of African studies to enhance exchanges with Africa on civilization and there is also the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Plan.
Africa has been participating in the Silk Road International League of Theatres, the Silk Road International Museum Alliance and the Network of Silk Road Art Festivals.
Peace and security
China has since decided to set up a China-Africa Peace and Security Fund to boost cooperation on peace, security, peacekeeping and law and order.
The Asian country is already providing military aid to the African Union and supporting countries in the Sahel region and those bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea in upholding security and combating terrorism in their regions.
China pledged to establish a China-Africa Peace and Security Forum as a platform for conducting more exchanges.
US$60 billion facility
At least US$60 was provided at the 2018 FOCAC summit to support the pillars of cooperation between Africa and China.
The funds were availed in form of government assistance, as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies in China.
Of the amount, US$15 billion was in form of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion of credit lines, the setting up of a US$10 billion special fund for development financing and a US$5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.
What is FOCAC?
This is a triennial high-level forum held between African countries and China to discuss and review various cooperation agreements and enhance relations between the two sides.
It is an important mechanism in the cooperation matrix between China and Africa, which signifies the highest level of interactions
The first FOCAC summit was held in Beijing in 2006, and the count for the summits include two major ministerial conferences held in Beijing and Addis Ababa in 2000 and 2003 respectively.
The FOCAC summit in Dakar next week is expected to adopt four resolutions: The Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024); the 2035 Vision for China-Africa Cooperation; the Sino-African Declaration on Climate Change and the Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC.